In the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic affected millions of lives worldwide, changing how people interact, communicate, work, shop, and travel.
According to Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, one out of twelve people in the world works in the travel and hospitality sector, which produces $6.5 trillion of the world’s economy. Naturally, the COVID-19 quarantine hit this industry hard, affecting businesses (forced to close their doors or file bankruptcy), jobs, revenues, and, yes, travelers.
The pandemic changed the way people travel in many ways, and here are some of the most significant of these changes.
1. Return to Nature
The need for social distancing inspired travelers to seek open spaces, destinations where they can enjoy seclusion and fresh air. National parks, beaches, mountain trails, and other places in nature count as primary attractions in many countries.
A 2015 study – Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation – revealed that a 90-min walk through a natural environment reduces “rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self), a known risk factor for mental illness.” Therefore, spending time in nature also reduces the levels of stress and anxiety. So, after a long time of self-quarantine imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the return to nature makes sense for health and as a less expensive travel alternative for people with budgets diminished by lack of employment or pay cuts during these challenging times.
Nature also helps people unplug and disengage from excessive technology use. This type of activity, called ecotherapy, is accessible and affordable for all, regardless of where they live. For urban areas, city parks provide the space and landscape to escape the stress of city life.
Road trips are a clear post-pandemic trend. They come highly recommended by local authorities in many countries. For example, the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, encouraged “backyard adventures” in the country, urging citizens to take road trips to local destinations instead of traveling abroad. These trips would support local businesses while allowing travelers to reap nature’s benefits at a fraction of the cost of international adventures.
In the USA, RVing is already a way of life. The RV is a home on wheels that offers an excellent level of mobility, taking travelers to any destination they want to explore, often without the high cost of hotel accommodation. COVID-19 still impedes people’s freedom to travel, but RVers can explore the road and see the world as and when they please.
3. Socially Conscious Travel
Socially conscious travel was more or less an ideal before the coronavirus pandemic that erupted in 2019. Today, the International Institute for Peace Through Travel credo is closer to becoming a reality:
Grateful for the opportunity to travel and experience the world, and because peace begins with the individual, I affirm my responsibility and commitment to:
- Journey with an open mind and gentle heart
- Accept with grace and gratitude the diversity I encounter
- Revere and protect the natural environment, which sustains all life
- Appreciate all cultures I discover
- Respect and thank my hosts for their welcome
- Offer my hand in friendship to everyone I meet
- Support travel services that share these views and act upon them and,
- By my spirit, words, and actions, I encourage others to travel the world in peace#
Moreover, socially conscious travel impacts communities positively, supporting local economies and local growth, promoting responsible travel practices, and raising global awareness about issues and destinations that would otherwise go unnoticed.
With so many hospitality businesses losing revenue, customers, and their livelihood because of the COVID-19 pandemic, socially conscious travel is a beacon of hope in a time of despair and uncertainty.
4. Experiential Tourism
Instead of focusing on the destination as the ultimate goal of the journey, travelers will concentrate more and more on the experience. The trend started before the coronavirus epidemic. However, the time for it to become mainstream is now, when globetrotters find meaning in interacting with people and cultures in immersive ways.
Of course, museums and mainstream attractions don’t lose their appeal, but experiential tourism gains momentum because it offers something the COVID-19 global epidemy restricted for so many months: real human interaction. So, instead of seeking mainstream destinations and attractions, experiential travel represents a change in perspective as it goes off-the-beaten-path to remote locations – usually guided by locals – to reveal the true essence of a place.
Travelers will join cooking classes instead of eating in restaurants, visit homes, drink homemade liquor, buy fresh produce from the farmers’ or fish markets and cook with the locals, go foraging, participate in harvest activities, and the list goes on. Experiential travel stretches beyond “seeing” a place to learning and feeling.
5. Digital Nomads
Because they can work anywhere with a WiFi connection, digital nomads are now a desired target for global destinations. As a result, several countries created long-term stay programs to satisfy their needs. Digital nomads travel to these destinations to work remotely there. These programs may include free co-working spaces while nomads rent accommodation in hotels or via Airbnb.
Digital nomad “villages” providing all the co-working facilities, dining venues, and accommodations already exist – for instance, Digital Nomads Madeira Islands, the first in the European Union – giving access to a community of peers, local cultural events, car rentals, office space, accommodation, and much more.
These new, post-pandemic travel trends will curb overtourism and contribute to a more sustainable, responsible travel practice.